The last time, we touched on keeping things loose, especially down the stretch. Obviously this stretch we’re right in the thick of it, if not on the back end of it, and I think there’s a little less tension for the Tiger fans as far as thinking about October baseball because obviously today with a win for us we can put ourselves in a lock getting there.
The focus isn’t necessarily just on that. Obviously you want to get to the playoffs, but still, in this clubhouse there’s a division to win. Especially for the core group of guys that was here over the last several years and never had the chance to taste any of that, to come from where we were in 2003 to having a chance to win a division title three years later, it’s certainly can to some seem unbelievable. But that’s why baseball’s such a wonderful game. I don’t think there’s any other sport out there where you can turn the corner so quickly. Over the last couple years we’ve known we’ve been close. We’ve known we’ve been capable of turning the corner, but it was just like there’s been something missing. And I think that everything, whether it’s big or small, what’s been missing now we feel is coming together and it’s turned into a special season. Regardless of how it finishes, it’s been a special season.
I think that’s where the focus needs to be. Guys have worked really, really hard and they’ve stayed focused all season long. Even when the pressure’s been right on us, especially here in the last six weeks, guys have responded very, very well. They’ve just been mature big-leaguers, for lack of a better term. A lot of guys have shown they’ve graduated to being guys that are everyday, legitimate big-league players responding to everyday big-league situations. That’s been one of the funnest things to see. You bring guys in, you assemble a team and you don’t know exactly what you’ve got just yet, and people see something in you. And not everybody sees it in you, but now that you’re here in this stretch they’re like, "Oh well, that’s why we’ve got him here." That’s what’s kind of fun to watch this season, to see how it unfolds.
When a guy matures, typically it’s mentally. His ability’s there. His ability’s what got him there, and everybody in the big leagues has ability. But where you mature is mentally. It’s how you respond to adversity. It’s how you respond to success. It’s how you compose yourself both ways. That’s where guys have really stepped up. It’s not where you go out and win two games in a row and acting like it’s something to celebrate over. It’s not getting too high when you do what you’re supposed to do on a winning team. But it’s also not getting too low when you have a little funk. You’re going to have those funks throughout a major league season like we have. And we’ve responded both ways. I think for a while, living high on the hog like we were, it was like, "Man, how are we going to respond if this thing slows down?" Skip even predicted that was going to happen. It’s just baseball. And we’ve been a team of resolve. We’ve really grinded out when things have gotten a little hairy. And it’s good
to have that test. People might look at it as, "Man, we just wanted this 10-game lead going all the way through." But you know what? A team needs to be tested to see how they respond. That’s when you find out what kind of team that you have is when they’re tested in situations like we’ve been tested in, when teams have been putting the pressure on us. And we need to know what that feels like, because when we go to the playoffs now, we need to have that ability to respond to adversity. We don’t need something to take our legs out from under us and then be like, "Uh-oh, what do we do now?" Now we know what it’s like to go into a little bit of a funk, and we know what it’s like as a good team to go into a funk. That’s more important.
But the fan support has been outstanding, even here to the end. Somebody made a comment to me the other day. My comment was, "We’re going to find out what kind of team we are here in the last couple weeks." And his response was, "We already know what kind of team you are. You guys are already a special team, so it doesn’t really matter how you finish." That’s pretty nice to hear. As a matter of fact, it was at a fundraiser, and it was George Blaha, the Pistons and Michigan State broadcaster, who said that, because I had to get up and make a couple comments. People in all sports and all arenas are keeping up and following along and recognizing what this team has done. And, yeah, we’ve done something pretty special to turn things around like we did. It doesn’t happen very often. It doesn’t happen where a team that was in our situation coming off our ’05 season comes in and flips 22 wins already and still has a chance to go and add to that, going from fourth to first. Regardless if we hold onto it or not, it’s been really good.
Other than that, I think guys are starting to feel around here in the clubhouse a little bit of pride, not in the kind of pride that’s dangerous pride, but a pride that, "Hey, you know what, things are starting to pay off a little bit for everything we put into this. And that’s something to be proud of." And that’s fun, because coming to this clubhouse every day as opposed to the last three years in September, you just can’t even imagine the difference in guys’ personalities and their mentalities. It’s completely different, and it’s a joy to be here. It’s like you wake up in the morning and the first thing you think is like, "Man, when do I go to the clubhouse? When do I get out of here?"
With all that aside, I’ve mentioned this t-shirt that’s supposed to be coming out. It should be happening here shortly. It’s a matter of getting some things together, but it’ll be out of Fanatic U. I know there’s a couple people on the blog who have expressed some interest in getting it. It’ll be there. It’s not there yet. It’ll be there for the playoffs. That’s the plan. God forbid a collapse, we will be in the playoffs and hopefully we’ll have those t-shirts for people to have.
Not many rallies for Gum Time lately. We’ve talked about it before, that we’d rather not rally, but we’ve had our share of being behind in games lately. We did have a heck of a turnaround there at home against Baltimore, when Sean Casey hit the two-run home run and they ended up bringing in Ray, but we ended up losing the game. We did have the gum in. We did rally, we just didn’t finish it off. It’s going to be competitive baseball here throughout the rest of the way and there’s going to be some times when we need that rally, so people need to keep the chew going, keep it rolling, make sure they stock up for the playoffs.
Until next time. Hopefully our next entry, we’ll be division winners and certainly have a playoff spot cinched up and making a run.
Thanks to my friends at MLB.com for getting this posted at the start of today’s game. More later…
First of all, we had some troops at the park the other day, special troops that had come back from Iraq and suffered some injuries. Twenty, twenty-one year old guys who have their whole life to live. The reason I bring them up is looking on the ChewMap here, following along, seeing who’s plugging in from all over, a lot of the people who are following along are troops from everywhere. They’re stationed in Somalia, in Baghdad, in the Philippines. Obviously we’re having fun around here and a lot of people look to us and how we perform out there on the field, following along. I just want to let them know, too, that we follow what they do and we look to them as our heroes. Being the son of a father who was in the Army for 23 years and was activated for Desert Storm, I know a little bit of what they have to go through — not in the trenches and not on the battlefield, but knowing what kind of demands they have. When we think we have demands here, what we have to go through is nothing compared to what they have to go through. It’s really encouraging and it excites me to see when we have troops plugging in on our website from all over. That’s something that they hold on to, you know? It gives them something to follow amongst all the times that they go through. Their safety’s always in question and what they have to do day in and day out. The biggest thing going through this, and obviously with the anniversary of Sept. 11 coming up and what kind of sparked a lot of what’s going on around the world, our hats are off to them. We appreciate what they do following us and what we do.
Other than that, touching a little bit on what’s going on with us as a team, where we’re at, how fun this month’s going to be. It all starts with pitching, obviously, with Kenny starting us off with the game he had starting us off this month, it’s helped our staff kind of follow suit as a whole. These games are going to be a grind, man. They’re not going to be easy.
More importantly, keep on brushing your teeth, because I know a lot of people are using a lot of gum right now. Tuesday night, my teeth and my gums were killing me. I brushed my teeth for about 10 minutes that night, right around my gums, just because I had so much gum around my mouth. Unfortunately we came up short in that game, but we’ve had some pretty exciting finishes. The one in New York was probably one of the most memorable. I told the guys again, you’ve got to stick with what got you here and what we’ve been believing in. I was one of two guys chewing some gum. Me and Bondo, we threw it in and Craig went out there and got ‘er done on the big stage. It was pretty awesome. Craig’s been that kind of a clutch guy. He’s kind of the one that’s keeping the gum rolling. He’s had some big hits.
Short and sweet one this time. We have a big series in Minnesota. A lot can really hinge as far as postseason outlook on what happens this weekend. I know everybody’s been following along and bringing out their packs of gum.
Also, there’s going to be a T-shirt coming out pretty soon that should be pretty legit. Fanatic U will be the one initially selling it, but it’ll kind of circulate around in other stores. Hopefully we’ll get it to the ballpark. It should be happening pretty quick.
Also, I saw that there was like seven fans along the right-field line the other night, and each one of them had one big letter, and each letter spelled out G-U-M T-I-M-E. I noticed it. Huge sign. It came out when we were playing against the Angels last weekend. It’s fun to see how much people are really, really taking to this team and following along. It’s a lot of fun.
It’s good to have Kevin Hooper come on board. He was a college teammate. He’s a scrappy player and he does all the little things. We’ll get him acclimated to Gum Time, too.
(Posted courtesy of my MLB.com friends before the game.)